Updates: Russia’s war against Ukraine – reactions in Estonia

In the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Estonian World brings you the latest reactions from Estonia – one of the few NATO member states that is bordering with Russia. For updates from 2022, please see a separate article.

17 February 2024 – Estonia and the US to use confiscated profits to help Ukraine

Estonia and the US signed a cooperation agreement aimed at helping rebuild Ukraine’s electricity infrastructure with confiscated proceeds of crimes. The agreement directs nearly €500,000 into rebuilding Ukraine’s energy infrastructure. The project will be managed by the Estonian Centre for International Development 

In March 2023, the US Department of Justice confiscated USD484,969 worth of proceeds of a crime related to a smuggling case involving an attempt to sell a jig grinder to Russia, which is prohibited without a relevant licence because it is used in nuclear proliferation and defence programmes. The grinder did not arrive in Russia as a result of the investigation. In addition to confiscating the grinder, US authorities, with active support from Estonia’s Prosecutor’s Office and Tax and Customs Board, charged several individuals and companies that were part of the smuggling network. The crime was discovered in the United States, but it involved a company registered in Estonia.

15 February 2024 – Estonia joins drone and demining coalitions to support Ukraine

Estonia has signed declarations of intent to join drone and demining coalitions to support Ukraine. Within these coalitions, contributing nations will cooperate to increase drone capabilities in Ukraine and to seek ways to support Ukraine in both combat and humanitarian demining.

25 January 2024 – Estonian entrepreneurs transport 16 trucks and over 180 drones to Ukraine

Initiated by Estonian entrepreneur Ragnar Sass, hundreds of pick-up trucks have been donated to the Ukrainian armed forces since the Russian invasion in 2022. Today, the 25th delivery – called “freedom convoy” by the donators – arrived in Ukraine. “Today 25th freedom convoy arrived, the largest we have ever transported from Estonia – 16 trucks and over 180 different drones, plus extra equipment worth more than half a million dollars,” Sass wrote in a social media post.

According to the entrepreneur, more than 10,000 donors from over 70 different countries have supported the Estonian effort. “Every Ukrainian soldier we have met is extremely grateful and will never forget this,” Sass wrote.

Initiated by Estonian entrepreneur Ragnar Sass, hundreds of pick-up trucks have been donated to the Ukrainian armed forces since the Russian invasion in 2022. Photo by Ragnar Sass.

24 January 2024 – Estonia to help train the Ukrainian Armed Forces

Estonia will join the UK-led Operation Interflex, which trains the Ukrainian Armed Forces and is the largest international training programme of its kind for Ukrainian recruits. “Estonia’s contribution will be the 12th nation to support the UK’s programme, which has already provided more than 34,000 Ukrainian recruits with essential frontline combat skills,” the UK’s defence secretary, Grant Shapps, said in a statement.

Other nations contributing to Interflex include the Nordic and Baltic states, as well as Australia and Canada.

Estonian instructors will deliver basic training to soldiers from the Ukrainian Armed Forces in the UK. Estonia will also continue to participate in the European Union Military Assistance Mission in support of Ukraine with specialised courses in Estonia.

23 January 2024 – Estonia returns archaeological artefacts confiscated at the Estonian-Russian border to Ukraine

The Estonian government has returned to Ukraine the archaeological artefacts confiscated at the Luhamaa border crossing in 2018.

In 2018, customs officials at the Luhamaa border crossing discovered archaeological artefacts of very high cultural value hidden in a truck entering from Russia – a total of 274 items, including coins from antiquity and the Middle Ages, as well as gold and silver objects. After the artefacts were secured, assessed and conserved, it was discovered that the rare finds had been looted from various archaeological sites in the eastern and southern parts of Ukraine. Among the returned artefacts are gold objects of the Scythians, who lived in the areas of southern Ukraine in ancient times, medieval horse ornaments, and ancient and medieval coins.

Both Estonia and Ukraine are signatories to the UNESCO Convention prohibiting the illicit import, export and transfer of ownership of cultural property. Under the same convention, in 2016 Estonia returned a Viking-era sword that had been smuggled out of Ukraine and confiscated at the Estonian border. 

The Estonian government has returned to Ukraine the archaeological artefacts confiscated at the Luhamaa border crossing in 2018. Photo by Liis Reiman/the Estonian culture ministry.

15 January 2024 – Karis awards Ukrainian soldiers Estonia’s highest military honour

The Estonian president, Alar Karis, has awarded the Military Order of the Cross of the Eagle, First Class, to Ukrainian soldiers. “It recognises the supreme courage shown by all those who are fighting the enemy that has invaded Ukraine in defence of their country and the free world,” Karis said in a statement.

The Military Order of the Cross of the Eagle, First Class is the highest military honour awarded by Estonia. This is the first time it has been awarded since the country regained its independence in 1991.

“Wars are won by soldiers, who deserve our utmost respect and gratitude. Hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian soldiers are currently defending their country against Russian aggression. When I say ‘Ukrainian soldiers’, I mean everyone who contributes to the defence of the country: the armed forces, special units, territorial defence, volunteers and those who support the military industry. They are all Ukrainian soldiers,” Karis said.

The Estonian president, Alar Karis, has awarded the Military Order of the Cross of the Eagle, First Class, to Ukrainian soldiers. Photo by Raigo Pajula.

11 January 2024 – Pictures and video: Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky in Estonia

The Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, visited Tallinn, Estonia, on 10-11 January, where he met with the Estonian president Alar Karis, parliament speaker Lauri Hussar, and prime minister Kaja Kallas.

The Ukrainian president also gave a short speech to the Estonian parliament, in which he thanked Estonia and its people for their support of Ukraine.

10 January 2024 – Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky to visit Estonia

The Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenski, has begun a tour of the Baltic states, including a visit to Tallinn on 11 January. Zelensky will meet with his Estonian counterpart, Alar Karis, the speaker of parliament, Lauri Hussar, and the prime minister, Kaja Kallas.

A small Estonian resort town, Tõrva, located in Valga County in southern Estonia, has built a sand sculpture, honouring the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky. Photo by Egon Bogdanov.
A small Estonian resort town, Tõrva, located in Valga County in southern Estonia, in 2022 built a sand sculpture, honouring the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky. Photo by Egon Bogdanov.

10 January 2024 – Ukrainian police chiefs to be trained in Estonia

The Estonian Centre for International Development and the Estonian Police and Border Guard Board have signed a partnership agreement with the Ukrainian National Police to train several Ukrainian police chiefs in Estonia. The cooperation, which will run until March 2025, aims to increase the accountability of the Ukrainian police and reduce corruption by improving management and organisational structures.

The training will focus on modern management practices, innovative law enforcement methods and overall organisational culture, and the project will translate the necessary training materials and several Estonian police strategy documents into Ukrainian. Estonian law enforcement experts, including heads of prefectures, will participate in the project and share their experiences with their Ukrainian counterparts.

The Estonian Centre for International Development is a government foundation that manages and implements Estonia’s participation in international development cooperation and humanitarian aid projects.

Ukrainian policemen and policewomen.

10 January 2024 – Estonia leads a mechanism to provide cyber assistance to Ukraine

The Tallinn Mechanism, created by Estonia and its allies to leverage donor countries’ civilian cyber assistance to Ukraine, was launched on 20 December.

The Tallinn Mechanism systematically responds to Ukraine’s needs and matches donors’ capabilities so that assistance from different countries forms a coherent whole and Ukraine can defend itself in the cyber sphere.

The donors to the Tallinn Mechanism are Estonia, the Netherlands, Canada, Poland, France, Sweden, Germany, Denmark, the United States and the United Kingdom, while NATO and the European Union are observing members. The initiative has an Estonian front office in Kyiv, a Polish back office in Warsaw and a coordination group that unites representatives of Ukraine and all donors, while it is open to new members.

Various technology companies and NGOs from donor countries are involved in the Tallinn Mechanism, which can inform Estonian companies about both urgent and long-term needs. Estonia is allocating €500,000 from its development cooperation budget for 2024 to the initiative.

“Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine is not only being fought on the conventional battlefield. Russia’s targets include Ukraine’s cyber capabilities, both military and civilian, and therefore it is crucial to support Ukraine’s cyber defence and its ability to restore and develop relevant infrastructure,” the Estonian foreign minister, Margus Tsahkna, said in a statement.

“Unfortunately, it is likely that Russia’s cyber attacks will continue for the foreseeable future. Therefore, through the Tallinn Mechanism, we offer an opportunity to strengthen Ukraine’s systematic preparedness and resilience to cyber-attacks in the long term,” the foreign minister added.

The Tallinn Mechanism works in parallel with the IT Coalition, which deals with Ukraine’s military cyber issues.

14 December 2023 – Estonia to send Ukraine €80 million in aid, including Javelin anti-tank missiles, and proposes new long-term strategy

The Estonian government has approved a proposal by the country’s defence ministry for long-term military assistance to Ukraine and a comprehensive military aid package. The aid includes Javelin anti-tank missiles and vehicles, machine guns, ammunition for light weapons, various vehicles and vessels, and diving equipment.

“This aid package has been put together with the aim of providing maximum benefit to Ukraine without compromising Estonia’s own defence capabilities. We are replacing the necessary stocks,” Estonian defence minister Hanno Pevkur said in a statement.

Analysts at the Estonian defence ministry have also produced a discussion paper on how to make transatlantic security work. The paper includes calculations showing that to ensure a victory for Ukraine and a loss for Russia, it is enough for Ukraine’s supporters to allocate 0.25 per cent of their GDP to Ukraine each year.

Russia is spending more than twice as much on the war in Ukraine as the Ramstein Group, an alliance of 31 NATO member states and 23 other countries supporting Ukraine’s defence – whose combined economies are 30 times larger than Russia’s. For the next four years, Estonia is prepared to spend 0.25 per cent of its GDP on military assistance to Ukraine, using defence budget funds to finance this assistance.

Since 2022, Estonia has provided military assistance to Ukraine worth €500 million, which is about 1.4 per cent of the country’s GDP.

The first Javelin anti-tank missiles, donated by Estonia, arrived in Ukraine on 18 February 2022. Photo by Estonian Defence Forces.

14 December 2023 – Estonia’s Milrem to develop robotic systems with the Ukrainian defence industry

Estonian robotics and autonomous systems developer Milrem Robotics and the Ukrainian Defence Industry, which consolidates national defence industry companies, signed an agreement in Kyiv to start forging next-generation multi-domain robotic defence systems.

Milrem’s THeMIS unmanned ground vehicle, developed in Estonia. Photo by Milrem.

24 November 2023 – Ukrainians in Estonia call for commemoration of Holodomor victims

The Congress of Ukrainians in Estonia invites people to gather at Freedom Square in Tallinn on Saturday afternoon to commemorate the victims of the Holodomor, also known as the Great Ukrainian Famine, BNS reported. Ukrainians around the world commemorate the victims of the Holodomor on the fourth Saturday of November, and the Congress of Ukrainians in Estonia organises annual memorial events to honor the victims of this genocide of the Ukrainian people.

The Congress of Ukrainians in Estonia invites people to come with candles to Freedom Square at 3 PM on 25 November and join the “Light a Candle” action, part of the Ukrainian World Congress’ campaign “We Remember, Unite and Shall Overcome.”

The Holodomor, also known as the Great Ukrainian Famine, was a man-made famine in Soviet Ukraine from 1932 to 1933 that killed millions of Ukrainians.

14 November 2023 – Estonia’s UK embassy raises over €32,000 for Ukraine with a rave

The Estonian embassy in London, the UK, has raised over €32,000 for Ukraine with a charity rave, held at the Fabric nightclub in London.

Fabric nightclub on 9 November hosted “Rave for Ukraine”, organised by the Estonian embassy in London.

According to the Estonian foreign ministry, the country was represented by its culture minister Heidy Purga, and the rave featured “world famous DJs, such as Felix Buxton of Basement Jaxx, Chris Liebing from Germany, Ida Engberg from Sweden and the Earl of Shaftesbury aka Nick ac. Pavel Plastikk from Ukraine had the closing set in the main room illuminated in the colours of Ukraine.”

Estonian culture minister Heidy Purga djing at the Fabric nightclub on 9 November 2023. The club hosted “Rave for Ukraine”, organised by the Estonian embassy in London.

The money will go to the charity organisation Gen.Ukrainian, which organises camps for improving the mental health of children who have suffered in the war.

Felix Buxton of Basement Jaxx djing at the Fabric nightclub on 9 November 2023. The club hosted “Rave for Ukraine”, organised by the Estonian embassy in London.

8 November 2023 – Estonian Refugee Council has helped over 252,000 people in Ukraine

The Estonian Refugee Council has provided financial aid to approximately 252,500 people in Ukraine to date, mediating nearly €46 million worth of support. Currently, the Refugee Council is providing support in the Zaporizhzhia, Donetsk, Luhansk, Kharkiv, Kherson and Mykolaiv regions.

The Refugee Council provides financial support to vulnerable households in rural and suburban areas for buying solid fuels such as coal, firewood, briquettes or pellets or paying gas heating bills in order to survive the winter.

The head of the Estonian Refugee Council, Eero Janson, inspecting a destroyed house in Ukraine. Photo by the Estonian Refugee Council.

1 November 2023 – Chairman of the foreign affairs committee: If we lose in Ukraine, we will also lose in the Middle East

The chairman of the Estonian parliament’s foreign affairs committee, Marko Mihkelson, said at a meeting with his Norwegian parliamentary colleagues today that Russia’s aggression against Ukraine continued to be a priority for Estonia, but there are connections between the war in the Middle East and the war in Ukraine. “If we lose in Ukraine, we will lose everywhere, including in the Middle East,” he said.

Mihkelson pointed out that Russia’s as well as China’s strategic goals were for the long term, and that Russia’s position was strong enough to continue pursuing these goals for a long time and to do so at the cost of the well-being of its people. “Russia’s aim is to end the hegemony of the US and to destroy the security architecture of Europe. Next year, they will spend 60 per cent of their state budget on war, and this is only the public part of military expenses. The allies must not underestimate that,” he stated.

Mihkelson underlined that Norway’s assistance to Ukraine was of great value, but noted that the allies still did not have a common vision of what the end of this war should be. “The Ukrainians have a strong will to fight, but they need technology and ammunition. Our assistance must remain steadfastly strong. It is also important that Sweden became a member of NATO as soon as possible,” he said.

13 October 2023 – Ukrainian refugees start a healthy snack company in Estonia

Two Ukrainian war refugees in Estonia, Anna Lytvyn and Maryna Prittshina, set up a healthy snacks company called Fruitiki in Tallinn, with ambitions to sell their products across Europe. Read more from our feature story.

Maryna Prittshina and Anna Lytvyn. Private collection.

12 October 2023 – The Estonian Rescue Board sends 12 drones to the Ukrainian police

Estonian Rescue Board has dispatched 12 drones to mine clearance units of the Ukrainian police and conducted on-site training for their use, BNS reported. The director general of the Rescue Board, Margo Klaos, said they were in constant contact with their Ukrainian counterparts and try to assist in every possible way. “In return, we gain invaluable and much-needed knowledge about mine clearance operations,” Klaos added. The Estonian foreign ministry has allocated €214,500 from this year’s budget for development and humanitarian aid for sending drones to the Ukrainian police’s mine clearance units and for procuring replacement drones.

The Estonian Rescue Board has sent 12 drones to the Ukrainian police. Photo by the Estonian Rescue Board.

10 October 2023 – Estonia ready to lose funding if Ukraine joins EU

According to the Estonian prime minister, Kaja Kallas, Estonia is ready to eventually become a net contributor to the European Union budget if Ukraine joins the bloc, the Financial Times writes. Kallas also called on other EU countries to start work on budgetary reforms that would enable Kyiv’s membership.

Kallas said Estonia was prepared to lose access to cohesion funds. “Eventually it will happen, but not immediately,” she told the Financial Times. 

The Financial Times revealed last week that an internal EU study has estimated Ukraine would be entitled to almost 190 billion euros over seven years under the current budget structure, converting many countries from being net recipients of EU funds to net contributors. 

According to BNS, Estonia was one of six countries mentioned in the EU council paper as losing access to cohesion funds should Ukraine and other would-be members, such as Moldova and six countries in the Western Balkans, join without the budget rules first being amended. 

“We have to discuss this, what are the rules, how this money is distributed and what we get in exchange,” Kallas said in an interview on the sidelines of a gathering of EU leaders in Spain last week, where the topic was discussed by all 27 member states for the first time. “Nobody … says that we don’t need to reform anything. The question is how much? And what exactly?”

Estonian prime minister Kaja Kallas meeting with the Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Ukraine on 24 April 2023. Photo by Jürgen Randma.

10 October 2023 – Ukrainian refugees have done better in the Estonian labour market than expected 

Ukrainian war refugees have integrated in the Estonian labour market more successfully than in other countries, but there remains room for improvement in matching the qualifications with appropriate jobs, according to a report published by the Estonian Foresight Centre, a parliamentary think tank.

More than a third of the Ukrainian war refugees have found a job – 27,000 people have entered the local labour market. Ukrainians now form about 4 per cent of the Estonian labour force. “The growth in expected value added that can be connected to refugees is projected at €142 million this year, and the additional tax revenues from the Ukrainians will reach €56 million,” Märt Masso, an expert of the Foresight Centre, said in a statement.

However, the report notes that the downturn in the Estonian economy means the need for employees will decline in the coming months.

The Foresight Centre notes that there are also significant costs to helping the Ukrainian refugees. The cost of supporting the integration of refugees and their families is some 0.6-0.8 per cent of GDP; the cost for Estonia was €224 million in 2022.

The Foresight Centre is a think tank at the Estonian parliament that analysis socio-economic trends and builds future scenarios.

Tallinn-based Ukrainians at the Ukrainian Cultural Day on 29 May 2022.

10 October 2023 – Estonia allocates half a million euros to Ukraine for winterisation aid

Estonian foreign ministry is allocating half a million euros worth of humanitarian aid to Ukraine to help it prepare for winter. The aid will reach the people of Ukraine through the Estonian Refugee Council and the Tallinn-based NGO Mondo.

An estimated 17.6 million people need humanitarian aid in Ukraine, which is 40 per cent of Ukraine’s population. Since the start of the full-scale war, an estimated 1.4 million homes have been damaged or destroyed in Ukraine.

The ministry is allocating €200,000 to the Estonian Refugee Council for buying solid fuels for the most vulnerable internally displaced civilians in Ukraine, and for Ukrainian refugees in Georgia to help them cope with winter conditions.

NGO Mondo is allocated nearly €301,000 for repairing and insulating two centres for internally displaced people in Kharkiv and Zaporizhzhia, and for supplying heating devices, solid fuels and generators to eight refugee centres in the Dnipropetrovsk and Donetsk oblasts.

NGO Mondo’s aid packages in Ukraine. Photo by NGO Mondo.

19 September 2023 – Estonia, Luxembourg and Ukraine launch an “IT coalition”

Today in Ramstein, Germany, at the Ukraine Defence Contact Group meeting, Estonia, Luxembourg and Ukraine launched an “IT coalition”, which will support the Ukrainian Defence Forces in cyber defence.

“The IT Coalition will focus on the delivery of a secure and resilient IT infrastructure for the Ukrainian defence ministry and Defence Forces, which enables Ukraine to be more efficient and effective on the battlefield. We are grateful to Estonia and Luxembourg for their leadership in driving this initiative forward. I would also like to thank Belgium, Latvia, Lithuania and Denmark for joining us in this endeavour and to Luxembourg for already announcing the first pledge to the IT Coalition,” Rustem Umerov, the Ukrainian defence minister, said in a statement.

The Ukraine Defence Contact Group is an alliance of 54 countries supporting the defence of Ukraine by sending military equipment in response to the 2022 Russian invasion. The group coordinates the ongoing donation of military aid at monthly meetings. It often meets at the Ramstein Air Base, a US Air Force base in Rhineland-Palatinate, a state in southwestern Germany.

The defence ministers of Estonia, Luxembourg, Ukraine, Denmark, Latvia, Lithuania and Belgium launched an “IT coalition” at the Ramstein Air Base, to support Ukraine in cyber defence. Photo by the Estonian defence ministry.

12 September 2023 – Estonia assists Ukraine in psychological rehabilitation

Estonia is hosting 40 Ukrainian health-care professionals for advanced training in psychological first aid and psychological rehabilitation, BNS reported. The attendees for the training come from various regions of Ukraine.

One of the main goals of the three-day seminar is to help establish a unified network that would allow professionals to share experiences, learn from each other and provide mutual support amid the complex war situation in Ukraine. In addition to psychological rehabilitation, Ukrainian health-care workers will gain insights into mental health physiotherapy at the East-Tallinn Central Hospital’s outpatient rehabilitation centre.

Estonia is hosting 40 Ukrainian health-care professionals for advanced training in psychological first aid and psychological rehabilitation. Photo by the East-Tallinn Central Hospital.

6 September 2023 – Over four thousand Ukrainian refugees registered as unemployed in Estonia

As of 3 September, altogether 4,503 beneficiaries of international protection linked to Ukraine had registered as unemployed with the Estonian Unemployment Insurance Fund, accounting for nine per cent of all registered unemployed in Estonia, BNS reported.

A month earlier, on 30 July, 4,689 beneficiaries of international protection linked to Ukraine had registered as unemployed, and their share of all registered unemployed in Estonia stood at 9.2 per cent. Of the registered unemployed beneficiaries of international protection, 75.7 per cent are women and 24.3 per cent men.

Ukrainian refugees onboard a Tallink ferry in Tallinn, Estonia. Photo by Silver Tambur.

6 September 2023 – Estonian education experts training colleagues in Ukrainian universities

Estonian education experts are visiting Ukrainian universities this week to strengthen education cooperation between the two countries and introduce Estonians’ knowledge to their Ukrainian colleagues, BNS reported. The visit aims to contribute to the development of higher education in Ukraine and open doors for future technologies.

The Estonian expert group comprising representatives from the Estonian Education and Youth Board, the University of Tartu, the Estonian University of Life Sciences, and EdTech companies Triumf Health and Speaktx, along with experts from Mariupol University, will conduct a seminar titled “Promoting education: Edtechs, universities and country branding” at the Vasyl Stefanyk Precarpathian National University in Ivano-Frankivsk, Ukraine.

Estonian education experts are visiting Ukrainian universities to strengthen education cooperation between the two countries. Photo by the Estonian Education and Youth Board.

5 September 2023 – The Estonian Refugee Council supports nearly 247,000 people in Ukraine

The Estonian Refugee Council has provided cash-based assistance to close to 247,000 people in Ukraine in the total amount of €45 million, or around €61 per family member per month, BNS reported. Currently, the Refugee Council is providing support in the Zaporizhzhia, Donetsk, Luhansk, Kharkiv, Kherson and Mykolaiv regions.

“From April to the beginning of August, we provided food aid to over 24,000 people in Kharkiv, Donetsk and Zaporizhzhia regions. We will continue with the food programme in September, when we will add Kherson region to the receiving regions,” the Refugee Council said in its monthly overview, according to BNS.

The head of the Estonian Refugee Council, Eero Janson, inspecting a destroyed house in Ukraine. Photo by the Estonian Refugee Council.

5 September 2023 – Estonians donate €158,400 to fund bomb shelters in Ukrainian schools

During a charity campaign that took place from 17-31 August as part of the “Ukraine Thanks You!” concert in Tallinn for Ukraine’s Independence Day, people in Estonia donated a total of €158,400 for the construction of bomb shelters in schools in Eastern Ukraine, BNS reported.

The fundraising campaign was conducted and the collected funds will be sent to Ukraine by the non-profit organisation Kultuuride Ristmik (Crossroads of Cultures), founded by Ruslan and Terje Trochynskyi, in cooperation with Estonian and Ukrainian state institutions and trustworthy non-profit organisations.

The “Ukraine Thanks You!” concert in Tallinn on 24 August 2023. Photo by Kultuuride Ristmik NGO.

23 August 2023 – a company partly owned by Kaja Kallas’s husband continues to do business with Russia

The Estonian Public Broadcasting reported that Stark Logistics, a transport company partly owned by the Estonian prime minister Kaja Kallas’s husband Arvo Hallik, has not ceased operations with Russia.

Kristjan Laag, the CEO of Stark Logistics, told the outlet that the company “had practically stopped transporting to Russia, but had not completely ceased operations”, adding that the “current few runs are the last loads”.

The company had continued shipments to Russia throughout the war in Ukraine that started on 24 February 2022. Publicly available records show that the firm partly owned by the prime minister’s husband has arranged shipments worth at least $17 million to Russia during the war, the Estonian newspaper Eesti Päevaleht reported.

Ever since the war, Kallas has told the Estonian as well as the international media that “there must be no business with Russia”.

The Estonian prime minister and the leader of the Reform Party, Kaja Kallas, speaking in front of the parliament. Photo by the Reform Party.
The Estonian prime minister and the leader of the Reform Party, Kaja Kallas, speaking in front of the parliament. Photo by the Reform Party.

23 August 2023 – Estonia to send powerful drones to Ukraine

With the help of a donation campaign initiated by alumni of higher national defence courses, Estonians are supporting the purchase of altogether 21 Estonian-made reconnaissance drones with enhanced positioning reliability for the defenders of Ukraine and the first drones named Kalev, Lembit and Vambola will be sent to Ukraine in the near future, BNS reported. A total of almost 4,000 private individuals from Estonia and abroad contributed to the fundraiser launched last fall and the campaign raised almost a quarter of a million euros. Thanks to supporters, drones Kalev, Lembitu, Vambola and 18 other reconnaissance drones produced in Estonia can fly even when Russian military equipment prevents the use of GPS.

On Tuesday, alumni of the higher national defence courses, including Roy Strider, Eerik-Niiles Kross, Taivo Raud, Agne Aija, Andres Pehme, Martin Simon and Juku-Kalle Raid, decided to conclude the donation campaign launched by them last fall for sending Threod drones made in Estonia to Ukraine.

A Threod Systems drone, developed in Estonia. Photo by Threod Systems.

23 August 2023 – Estonian firms supplying parts for Putin’s yacht

Amid the war in Ukraine and sanctions imposed by the EU, Estonian companies are linked to the supply of spare parts for Russian dictator Vladimir Putin’s personal yacht, an investigation by the Alexei Navalny Anti-Corruption Foundation has found. The Estonian daily Postimees writes that when the complex MTU system broke down on Putin’s yacht, the Estonian company Breezemarine agreed not only to buy and take screens for this to Russia, but also to help reprogram them, BNS reported.

The MTU system, which failed in September 2021 on the yacht Graceful – now renamed Kosatka, or Orca – is a screen on which one can see data related to the current situation regarding the operation of the engines and which can be used to change their parameters. According to investigators of the Alexey Navalny Anti-Corruption Foundation, there was initially no rush to replace the system, because Putin had another yacht at his disposal, named Scheherazade. But when war broke out in Ukraine, Scheherazade was seized and the need for Graceful arose. Therefore, a search started for an intermediary who would be ready to get spare parts for the yacht while circumventing the sanctions imposed on Russia, according to BNS.

According to the foundation, Breezemarine, a company operating in Estonia, agreed not only to buy and take the screens to Putin’s yachts, but also to help reprogram them. According to the investigation, the Estonian company found a private individual to act as courier to take the equipment brought from St. Petersburg to a factory in Germany and later back to Russia. All this happened this spring, when the war was going on in Ukraine for the second year already.

Distinto, also an Estonian company, has also assisted the Graceful team in procuring uniforms. Since 2016, they have been supplied by the Italian company Floating Life, but sanctions once again started to prevent this last year. However, the Italian suppliers decided to continue their business relationship with Graceful’s caretakers and managers. They only asked if they could simply write “crew clothes” on the invoice and if they understood correctly that they do not have to include the yacht’s name Graceful. Initially, the invoice was directed to the Russian company managing the yacht, but at some point difficulties arose in Russia with international transfers. And then Distinto came into play, in whose name the invoice intended for Graceful was actually issued.

In order to avoid risks, the representatives of Floating Life asked that money not be transferred to Italy, but that a transfer be made to the account of a special agency in Turkey, which has not joined the sanctions. In the end, a Dubai company paid for the so-called uniforms. After that, the goods were sent from Italy to Lithuania, from where it reached the customer, Graceful, via Kaliningrad.

The participation of the two Estonian companies in these two stories is not accidental. Both Breezemarine and Distinto, which helped procure uniforms while avoiding sanctions, are managed by the same man – Sergei Tsekmazov. And his business is going well: according to the foundation, while Distinto’s revenue in 2021 was €432,000, in 2022 it was already over a million euros. During the first half of this year, the company’s revenue reportedly reached €600,000, BNS said.

Vladimir Putin’s yacht Graceful in Sochi, Russia, in 2015. Photo by Alexxx1979, shared under the Creative Commons CC BY-SA 4.0 licence.

11 August 2023 – Estonia to donate handguns to Ukraine

Estonia will send Ukraine more handguns and ammunition, the country’s government decided on 10 August.

So far, Estonia has provided Ukraine with military aid in the value of over 400 million euros. The earlier military aid has included Javelin anti-tank systems, howitzers, artillery ammunition, anti-tank mines, anti-tank grenade launchers, mortars, vehicles, communications equipment, military field hospitals, medical supplies, personal protective equipment and food packages.

9 August 2023 – Court: The case of a transgender Ukrainian handled inadequately by the police

In early July, a court determined the Estonian Police and Border Guard Board had superficially rejected the application for international protection from a transgender Ukrainian based on flawed reasoning and only considering that the Ukrainian held Russian citizenship.

According to the Estonian Human Rights Centre, which won against the police board in court, the transgender Ukrainian with Russian citizenship had started applying for Ukrainian citizenship even before Russia’s attack against Ukraine. Life in Russia had become intolerable for the individual, as hormone treatments for transgender people and related medical assistance were no longer available in the aggressor state. Moreover, after the outbreak of war, the person began financially supporting the Ukrainian armed forces, but Russia prohibits any form of opposition to the war. As a result, they applied for international protection from the police, which was then denied.

Both the court and the lawyers from the human rights centre representing the Ukrainian said the police board’s administrative procedure was disastrously flawed. Specifically, the complainant was an individual whose need for international protection should have been evaluated from several different aspects. During the administrative process, the police board should have taken into account their transgender identity, Ukrainian ethnicity, being within the interest sphere of Russian authorities, political opinions and financial support to the Ukrainian armed forces. However, the court found that the police board did not cumulatively assess these factors and based its refusal decision on outdated information about the applicant’s country of origin.

The court concluded that the police board violated the law on granting international protection to foreigners when assessing the applicant’s specific needs, and conducted the administrative procedure inadequately. As a result, the refusal to grant protection must be annulled, and the process must be carried out again properly.

A transgender person. Photo by Kyle on Unsplash.

1 August 2023 – Estonia donates a large amount of equipment to Ukraine

As part of the latest campaign by Estonia’s National Defence Promotion Foundation, tactical first aid kits and a real-time drone detector, among other things, were delivered to the Ukrainian border. The foundation, established by the Estonian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the defence ministry, handed over its twelfth aid shipment aimed at helping Ukraine ensure a continued ability to fight the war.

The shipment, worth €140,000, included 5,000 tactical first aid kits, 1,400 food packs, a real-time drone detector, battery stations, blankets and other equipment needed by Ukrainian combat units, BNS reported.

1 August 2023 – Estonian hunters send some 500 cans of wild boar meat to Ukraine

The Estonian Hunters’ Society at the end of last week sent yet another batch of canned game meat to Ukraine, this time consisting of approximately 500 cans of wild boar meat, BNS reported. The society is still accepting canned game meat as well as donations for Ukraine into the bank account EE062200221001183828 at Swedbank. Donors are asked to write “Ukraine” in the payment reference field.

13 July 2023 – Estonian security expert: NATO summit in Vilnius a “bureaucratic coffee drinking”

Meelis Oidsalu, a former deputy secretary general of the Estonian defence ministry, criticised the decision taken at the NATO summit in Vilnius on Tuesday on Ukraine and the alliance’s failure to start contributing more to its defence, in an interview given to the Estonian Public Broadcasting’s Vikerraadio. NATO leaders said they would invite Ukraine to join the alliance only when conditions are met and allies agree – falling short of Ukraine’s expectations.

Oidsalu didn’t mince his words, calling the summit a “coffee drinking of the war bureaucrats”. “There was talk of approving some documents that were decided a year ago and then they couldn’t even iron out the talking points about Ukraine,” he noted.

Commenting on the Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky’s criticism of NATO’s decision, Oidsalu said that expressing offence and disappointment was necessary to keep the issue on the agenda. “Ukraine in general is doing badly at the moment and I think that is what we should be talking about now, not so much about the NATO summit in Vilnius. [NATO has] not played a big role for Ukraine during this war, that’s why NATO has officially been in the shadows anyway (on the Ukraine issue), so as not to give Putin the opportunity to say that Putin is at war with NATO,” he said.

“As a whole, Ukraine is currently on the course that if there are no major breakthroughs on the front now, by autumn we will be in a situation where the West will no longer have much capacity to provide Ukraine with munitions. And if the territories have not been retaken by then, then there will be negotiations, and perhaps during these negotiations Ukraine’s NATO membership will be discussed as something that Ukraine could get in exchange for something – a cession of its territory or even a temporary acceptance of the situation,” Oidsalu stated, adding that the situation remains difficult for Ukraine and Zelensky’s “emotionalism” is perhaps just an expression of that.

The security expert said that in his view, NATO is weaker than it was a year ago. “On the battlefield itself, NATO is weaker than it was a year ago, because we have given away a lot of ammunition and equipment – it has not been produced back, and there is no sign at the moment that there is any desire to produce it back in adequate quantities; there is still a very big void in the ammunition stores, bigger than we might be talking about,” he claimed.

Oidsalu stressed that as long as the commitment to spend two per cent of GDP on defence made at the NATO defence ministers’ meeting in 2006 is not fulfilled, “there is no point in talking about this plan as merely a statement of goodwill”. “If we simply look at the needs of the environment and the actual actions that the world’s richest bloc of nations are actually doing, or failing to do, in developing national defence, there are still very big question marks. What is the course, where are we really?” he asked.

Oidsalu also said that the Baltic states should contribute at least four per cent of their GDP to defence, arguing that Latvia’s and Lithuania’s defence contributions of 2.2 and 2.5 per cent of GDP respectively, are still not enough (Estonia is aiming to spend at least three per cent of its GDP on defence).

“In the Baltics, three per cent should be the minimum for the next decade, in fact an adequate level would be to put somewhere between 4 and 4.5 per cent every year, so that we would get to a situation where maybe seven or eight years from now, in some bizarre monstrous way, Russia will have recovered and will be doing its next thing, so that we won’t have to think so much about the upcoming US elections, whether we will be helped or not,” he noted.

The NATO secretary general and the alliance’s national leaders at NATO Vilnius summit on 11 July 2023. Photo by NATO.

12 July 2023 – Estonian MEP: The NATO Summit promises to Ukraine a “real disappointment”

Estonian member of the European Parliament, a former chief of the Estonian Defence Forces, General (retired) Riho Terras (Pro Patria) said the promises given to Ukraine at the NATO Summit in Vilnius were a real disappointment. “We all remember the 2008 NATO Summit in Bucharest where a group of poets worded a beautiful statement to support Ukraine and Georgia. After that, Russia attacked Georgia and, a few years later, Ukraine.”

“One doesn’t have to be a clairvoyant to understand what happens next. Leaving the door cracked without concrete promises doesn’t mean anything. The sentence, ‘We can invite Ukraine to NATO when the allies agree and the conditions are met’ is nothing new, but reiterating the always valid principle. That’s a real disappointment.”

Riho Terras. Private collection.

11 July 2023 – Foreign ministers: the Baltics is a “model” for Ukraine’s Euro-Atlantic integration

The Danish, Estonian, Finnish, Icelandic, Latvian, Lithuanian, Norwegian and Swedish foreign ministers – Lars Løkke Rasmussen, Margus Tsahkna, Elina Valtonen, Thordis Kolbrun Reykfjord Gylfadottir, Arturs Krisjanis Karins, Gabrielius Landsbergis, Anniken Huitfeldt and Tobias Billström, respectively, published a joint opinion piece in the Washington Post, in which they said that “there’s a model for Ukraine’s future Euro-Atlantic integration: The Baltics”.

Together, the Nordic and Baltic countries represent a unique history of Euro-Atlantic integration. One of the Nordic countries’ greatest foreign policy achievements was an extensive engagement in the Baltic countries after the Cold War. The Nordics supported their Baltic neighbors’ fight for restoration of freedom and their journey into the Euro-Atlantic family. Now, the Nordic and Baltic countries act together in an equal and free partnership of prosperous democracies,” the foreign ministers said, adding that “it is time for us to bring this Baltic experience of the 1990s to our joint efforts in support of Ukraine on its journey toward membership in the European Union.”

“The Nordic and Baltic countries, having experienced the transformative power of European integration firsthand, are eager to share our knowledge, expertise and best practices with Ukraine,” the ministers noted.

The foreign ministers emphasised that “Ukraine’s security is part of European security” and “Ukraine has the right to choose its own security arrangements”. “Right now, the most important and urgent task is to support Ukraine to prevail in this war. At the NATO summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, this week, we want to see ambitious steps bringing Ukraine closer to NATO and upscaling our practical support, both financially and longer-term,” the ministers said.

The foreign ministers also underlined that the Baltic and Nordic countries’ combined pledged support to Ukraine since Russia’s full-scale invasion amounts to more than 8.5 billion euros – and promised to continue this support “for as long as necessary”.

10 July 2023 – Jonatan Vseviov: “Letting Russia continue its aggression far outweighs the costs of stopping it”

The secretary general of the Estonian foreign ministry, Jonatan Vseviov, says in an interview with Estonian World that every country can do their bit to help stop Russian aggression against Ukraine and everybody needs to reinforce the message that the cost of continuing the aggression far outweighs the cost of stopping it.

Jonatan Vseviov, the Estonian foreign ministry’s secretary general. Photo by the Estonian foreign ministry.

10 July 2023 – Speakers of six countries: NATO must establish a path for Ukraine to join

The speakers of the parliaments of the Baltic states, Germany, Poland and Ukraine made a joint statement in Riga, Latvia, in which they call on the allies to undertake the commitment at the NATO summit starting tomorrow that Ukraine will become a member of NATO.

“In light of the upcoming NATO summit in Vilnius we call on the allies to undertake the commitment that Ukraine will become a member of NATO and the Alliance will establish a path for Ukraine to join NATO,” the speakers of the six countries say in the joint statement, and add that Ukraine should be invited to join NATO as soon as conditions allow through a political decision similar to Finland.

5 July 2023 – Almost 5,000 Ukrainian refugees registered as unemployed in Estonia

As of 2 July, altogether 4,828 beneficiaries of international protection linked to Ukraine had registered as unemployed with the Estonian Unemployment Insurance Fund, accounting for 9.6 per cent of all registered unemployed in Estonia, BNS reported. A month earlier, 5,064 beneficiaries of international protection linked to Ukraine had registered as unemployed, and their share of all registered unemployed in Estonia stood at 10.2 per cent.

The Ukrainian Cultural Days 2023 in Tallinn, Estonia.

27 June 2023 – The Estonian foreign ministry allocates nearly a million for aiding Ukraine

The Estonian foreign ministry has allocated €959,650 to its strategic humanitarian aid partners for assisting Ukraine in 2023, BNS reported. The aim is to support the people of Ukraine, internally displaced people, and refugees in Georgia and Moldova, and to provide as quick and efficient solutions as possible.

The Rescue Board has been allocated €315,600 for sending foaming agent necessary for extinguishing infrastructure fires. NGO Pagulasabi will receive €400,000 for cash-based assistance. In Ukraine, cash-based aid is given to improve independent coping of households who rely fully or partially on agricultural activities for survival, and multipurpose cash-based aid for the most vulnerable households. NGO Mondo has been allocated €244,050 for urgent and light repairs of two schools in Mykolaiv and Zaporizhzhia regions with the aim for children to be able to go to school in September 2023. In addition, digital competence and psychosocial support training will be organised for teachers in schools.

An aid package sent by the Estonian non-profit organisation Mondo to Ukraine. Photo by Mondo.

27 June 2023 – President: Wagner’s rebellion demonstrated Russia’s unpredictability

The Estonian president, Alar Karis, told the National Defence Council that the rebellion by Wagner Group had shown how unpredictable the internal balance of Russia can be. Karis said the armed rebellion against Russia’s military leadership and president Vladimir Putin’s power over the weekend was thought-provoking, according to BNS.

“We saw how unpredictable the internal balance of Russia, which started an aggression war in Ukraine, can be. We saw an organisation created, equipped and maintained with the support of the Kremlin attack the same power and its armed forces by occupying both districts and the joint staff of the Russian armed forces in Rostov without resistance. We saw the incumbent president being forced to establish defensive lines near Moscow to stop the march of his mercenaries towards the capital city. We saw the passivity of the Russian population and the indecisiveness of their state institutions,” Karis said.

26 June 2023 – Russia remains unpredictable

The Estonian government held an extraordinary cabinet meeting today, during which ministers were briefed on the latest developments in Russia and their potential impact.

“I can continue to assure you that there is no threat to Estonia from what is happening in Russia. We are constantly monitoring the situation and exchanging information with allies and partners, because Russia remains unpredictable and, although Prigozhin has stopped, the situation and its long-term consequences raise many questions. For this reason, our presence on the eastern border will remain heightened and we do not want Estonian people to travel to Russia,” the Estonian prime minister Kaja Kallas said in a statement.

“From our point of view, the most important thing is that the international focus remains on the victory of Ukraine and continued support for Ukrainians until they defeat the aggressor,” Kallas added.

24 June 2023 – Estonian MEP: The next days will dictate Russia’s fate

Estonian MEP Urmas Paet said in a Facebook post that the Russian criminal regime was in a public crisis due to its own earlier criminal choices. “First and foremost, of course the aggression against Ukraine that has shown the world the essence of the Russian regime and, at the same time, weakened the Russian state internally. And second, the choice that created the Wagner private army, ie Prigozhin’s armed forces to fulfil Russia’s dark goals elsewhere in the world where Russia, at first, tried to hide its direct involvement – like in many African countries,” Paet said. “But, due to the difficulties in the aggression against Ukraine, the Russian regime had to use Prigozhin’s armed forces in Ukraine and allowed the Wagner Group to expand, including adding criminals from Russian prisons.”

“The next days will dictate Russia’s fate. Either it will be a bloody domestic war, or the Russian regime will have enough stamina and the loyalty of the regular army to take out Prigozhin and stop the already quickly rolling internal collapse of Russia. Right now, it’s said Rostov-on-Don – an important southern supply post of the Russian Army – is under Wagner’s control. If it is so, then Wagner managed to succeed in a short period of time in Russia something they couldn’t succeed in Ukraine in months.”

According to Paet, what’s happening in Russia right now has weakened the authority of the Russian regime inside Russia – people are realising that the regime isn’t rock proof and the society isn’t suffering because of an external third party, but the Russian leadership together with Putin. “Therefore, if the regime can’t stop the events Prigozhin has initiated, there’s a growing risk that units of the Russian regular military forces will step over to Prigozhin’s side.”

Paet also said all this meant that it will be more difficult for Russia to keep its positions in Ukraine, and that a conflict inside the Russian armed forces will lower the morale even more. “In addition, there are Prigozhin’s own statements about the pointlessness of the aggression against Ukraine. That doesn’t necessarily mean Prigozhin would be a supporter of a free Ukraine, but the events in Russia will help Ukraine clean it up from the occupiers.”

Urmas Paet. Private collection.

24 June 2023 – Estonian MP: Putin could be dumped and Russia could face a military dictatorship

Marko Mihkelson, the chairman of the Estonian parliament’s foreign affairs committee, said in the context of the events in Russia on Saturday that the Wagner mercenary army had been preparing for a military insurgency for some time.

“The briefs of the first hours confirm the Wagner private army, led by [Yevgeny] Prigozhin, has been preparing for this operation thoroughly and for a long time. The takeover of Rostov and Voronezh without any major resistance shows that on the one hand there is awe of Wagner’s power, and on the other hand it is not impossible that Prigozhin has enough authority in the Russian armed forces so as to not use force against him,” Mihkelson said on social media, BNS reported.

Unlike the parquet generals and the Russian leadership, Prigozhin has been constantly on the front line and has been able to grow his authority through social media, Mihkelson noted, adding that Prigozhin, once Vladimir Putin’s faithful servant, has become the most serious threat to Putin’s power.

“The military insurgency in Russia led by war criminal Yevgeny Prigozhin could escalate into a coup attempt if it turns out that Russia’s armed forces and security structures remain neutral towards him or even take Wagner’s side. That will test the authority of war criminal Putin and the FSB. This is the most serious internal situation in Russia since the early 1990s. At the same time, we should not forget that, like Putin, Prigozhin still wants to destroy Ukraine,” Mihkelson said.

He said the television address by Putin on Saturday morning drew a clear line between the two men – Putin considers Prigozhin a traitor, likens the situation to 1917, and essentially demands the liquidation of the rebels.

“The next hours will show whether the insurgency by Prigozhin’s private army will grow into something more. The most important indicator will be the actions of the Russian armed forces and the National Guard. If what they do is more of a neutral onlooker presence, which we have seen in part at least in the first hours of the insurgency, or if units take Prigozhin’s side, of which we are getting unconfirmed reports, the events could escalate into more than replacement of the defence minister and the chief of staff,” Mihkelson said.

“In any case, this is an event that will seriously shake Russia internally, because Putin’s authority is at stake. If the FSB fails to ensure internal order and to call Prigozhin to account or destroy him, their whole system of power could collapse. Putin himself would be dumped as well and Russia would face a military dictatorship. The elimination of Prigozhin, in turn, would also provide a reason to tighten the screws even more,” the Reform Party MP said.

Mihkelson admitted, however, that it was not yet possible to draw any conclusions, nor to say how this will affect the situation on the battlefield.

“Prigozhin stated that his actions do not impede the management of the front. Understandable, because he also wants to achieve victory over Ukraine. But on the other hand, it is not excluded that the insurgency in Russia will dissipate the command and control capabilities of the armed forces, and that Ukraine will have the opportunity to find weak points and weak links on the front lines in the course of the counter-attack to press for success,” Mihkelson said.

Marko Mihkeson. Private collection.

24 June 2023 – Estonia strengthens control of its border with Russia

In the context of reports of an armed rebellion in Russia, the control on the Estonian-Russian border has been stepped up, the Estonian prime minister Kaja Kallas said today.

“There is no threat to Estonia in connection to what is happening in Russia. Our security agencies are doing their job, we are closely following the developments in Russia and we are in contact with our allies and partners. We have also strengthened controls on Estonia’s eastern border,” Kallas said in a statement.

Estonian and Russian border markings on Estonia-Russia border; photo by Toomas Tuul.

24 June 2023 – Estonia following the developments in Russia closely

Following the reports that Vladimir Putin’s former close ally Yevgeny Prigozhin and his Wagner paramilitary group has staged a mutiny against the Russian leadership, the Estonian foreign ministry issued a statement today saying that “Estonia was following the developments in Russia closely”. “We are aware of what is happening, we are following the situation closely and exchanging information with Allies,” the foreign minister Margus Tsahkna said in a statement.

The ministry also reiterated its recommendation to avoid travelling to Russia. Estonian citizens who are temporarily in Russia are advised to return to Estonia at the earliest opportunity and register their stay in Russia on the foreign ministry’s Reisi Targalt website

On 23 June 2023, Prigozhin staged a mutiny against the Russian leadership after accusing Russian troops of attacking his men.

Vladimir Putin tours Yevgeny Prigozhin’s (right) Concord food catering factory in 2010. Photo by the Russian government, shared under the Creative Commons CC BY 3.0 licence.

22 June 2023 – Estonia to send a field hospital and demining equipment to Ukraine

Estonia is sending a second field hospital to the Ukrainian armed forces, in collaboration with Iceland. Additionally, the Estonian aid package includes equipment for paramedics, deminers and counter-drone capabilities. The field hospital will be donated from the Estonian Defence Forces’ stock, and its replenishment will be fully funded by Iceland at a cost of €7.8 million.

According to the Estonian defence ministry, Estonia has provided Ukraine with military aid totalling around €400 million. Donations have included missiles for the Javelin anti-tank missile system, howitzers, anti-tank mines, anti-tank grenade launchers, vehicles, communication equipment, medical supplies, helmets and dry food packages.

14 June 2023 – Estonia’s Rescue Board and the foreign ministry send equipment to Ukraine to deal with the flood

The shipment is worth over €450,000 and comes in the wake of the destruction of the Nova Kakhovka dam. The aid package includes hoses, pumps, absorbents, boats, drysuits, waders and cork jackets. Since February 2022, Estonia has provided Ukraine with humanitarian aid worth over €23 million.

14 June 2023 – Ukrainian Cultural Days in Tallinn

For the second year in a row, the Ukrainian Cultural Days event was held in the Estonian capital, Tallinn, from 27 to 28 May, bringing together the Ukrainian community, Estonian locals and the international community.

The Ukrainian Cultural Days 2023 in Tallinn, Estonia.

12 June 2023 – An Estonian-initiated exhibition about the Ukrainian refugees opens in London

“What Would You Take?”, a photographic exhibition that tells the story of twelve Ukrainian war refugees, has opened at the 12 Star Gallery at the Europe House in central London. The photos were taken by renowned Estonian photographer Kaupo Kikkas.

Co-authored by English writer Frances Stonor Saunders, the exhibition is accompanied by a short documentary film of the same name by Estonian documentary maker Heilika Pikkov. The exhibition, open until 20 October, includes portraits and photographs of objects that people have taken with them when they have left home. A collection of essays compiled by Saunders takes a closer look at the stories of escape.

“What Would You Take?”, a photographic exhibition that tells the story of twelve Ukrainian war refugees, is open at the 12 Star Gallery at the Europe House in central London. Photo by the Estonian Film Institute.

7 June 2023 – Estonian NGO collecting donations to evacuate people from Kherson

Estonian NGO Mondo is collecting donations to help evacuate people from the Kherson area in southern Ukraine where the breaching of a major dam has created massive floods and the lives of tens of thousands of people are in danger. “Ukraine needs help evacuating people and supporting the evacuees,” Mondo said in a statement. “The donations are welcomed in every amount – every euro counts.”

With the help of the donations, the Estonian NGO, in cooperation with its long-time partner, Vostok SOS, is evacuating people from the Kherson area to safer places. “In addition, the donations are crucial to support the evacuees with safe havens and other necessities of life – like mattresses, blankets, clean drinking water etc.” According to Mondo, the evacuation is especially difficult because the fighting has not stopped in the region.”

People can donate to help Ukrainians by transferring money to the Mondo bank account EE491010220099409013 (“Ukraina heaks” or “For Ukraine” in the memo field), through the Mondo crisis foundationPaypal or the “Ma armastan aidata” (I love to help) environment.

The Nova Kakhovka dam, 58 kilometres (36 miles) up the Dnipro River in Russian-occupied Ukraine, was destroyed on 6 June. Both Ukraine and Russia blame each other for sabotaging the dam.

Settlements on the left bank of Dnieper River are underwater after the Kakhovka Dam was breached on 6 June 2023. Photo by Armyinform, shared under the Creative Commons CC BY 4.0 licence.

7 June 2023 – Ninety-three MPs submit a draft statement supporting a special tribunal

Today, Eerik-Niiles Kross, a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Estonian parliament, submitted a draft statement for the parliamentary proceedings on behalf of 93 MPs, holding to account individually those involved in planning, preparation, launching and committing the crime of aggression against Ukraine, and calls on establishing for this a special international tribunal under the auspices of the UN.

The MPs underline in the draft statement that the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine is the most outrageous act of aggression in Europe since the Second World War and requires an adequate legal response. In their opinion, a crime of aggression is the supreme international crime, which is the root cause of all other crimes committed in Ukraine and leads to the commission of further serious crimes, and the prosecution of the perpetrators of this crime is the obligation of the international community as a whole.

“It is the duty of the countries of the world to hold to account individually those involved in planning, preparing, initiating or committing the crime of aggression against Ukraine, in addition to perpetrators of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes,” the draft statement says.

3 June 2023 – Ukrainians thank Estonia with a huge roadside billboard

The Estonian ambassador to Ukraine, Kaimo Kuusk, tweeted that he noticed a huge billboard on the side of a road in Ukraine with the Estonian flag and the word “thanks” written in both Estonian and Ukrainian. “I’m melting,” Kuusk said in his tweet in Estonian, and “Thank you, dear Ukrainians” in the Ukrainian language.

2 June 2023 – Estonia’s FM opens an Estonian-built kindergarten in Ukraine

The Estonian foreign minister Margus Tsahkna, opened a kindergarten in the Ukrainian city of Ovruch in the Zhytomyr region, built in cooperation between the Estonian public and private sector, BNS reported.

The Estonian-built kindergarten in Ukraine. Photo by Max Fedishyn / the Estonian foreign ministry.

With the completion of the Ovruch kindergarten, Estonia becomes one of the first countries to have completed an educational facility as part of the reconstruction efforts in Ukraine. The project was funded by the foreign ministry that allocated €2.7 million for the construction of the first phase of the Ovruch kindergarten.

The Estonian-built kindergarten in Ukraine. Photo by Max Fedishyn / the Estonian foreign ministry.
The Estonian-built kindergarten in Ukraine. Photo by Max Fedishyn / the Estonian foreign ministry.

1 June 2023 – Podcast: Rebuilding Ukraine

In the latest episode of the Tallinn University Podcast, the host, Terry McDonald, is joined by Patrick J. Wilson, a senior advisor on Ukraine Recovery and Reconstruction for USAID, one of the largest official aid agencies in the world, to discuss the reconstruction of Ukraine.

23 May 2023 – Estonia donates an X-ray device to Ukraine for inspecting explosive devices

The Estonian Forensic Science Institute has donated to Ukraine a portable X-ray device enabling to inspect improvised explosive devices, unexploded ordnance on the battlefield and remnants thereof, thus contributing to the detection of war crimes, BNS reports. The device can be used to examine parts of rockets, artillery shells, as well as smaller weapons. The donated equipment is mobile, allowing for quick analysis of collected material near the crime scene and preservation of evidence for further investigation.

17 May 2023 – The Estonian president stresses the importance of a war damage register for Ukraine

Speaking at a Council of Europe summit, the Estonian president, Alar Karis said the new war damage register will help support Ukraine’s fight for justice. “In addition to the fight for freedom, Ukraine is also fighting for justice. The register of war damage caused by the Russian aggression, created by the Council of Europe at this summit, is an important step to support it,” Karis said at a high-level discussion with representatives of the US, Croatia, Finland, Ireland, the Netherlands, Slovenia, Sweden, Ukraine, the European Commission and the OSCE, held within the framework of the Council of Europe summit in Reykjavik, Iceland, according to BNS.

There can be no place for impunity, all criminals need to know that they will be held accountable, the Russian leadership must not be allowed to hide behind personal immunity, Karis said. “It is necessary to ensure that the war crimes committed by Russia in Ukraine are investigated, that the perpetrators are brought to justice, and an international special tribunal must be set up to bring them to justice,” he said.

Alar Karis at a Council of Europe summit on 17 May 2023. Photo by the Estonian President’s Office.

17 May 2023 – The Estonian parliament supports Ukraine’s NATO membership

The Estonian parliament passed with 92 votes in favour a statement on supporting Ukraine’s wish to join NATO as the only way to ensure the rules-based world order, lasting peace and the security of the democratic countries of Europe, BNS reported. In the statement submitted by 95 MPs, the parliament expresses determination to reinforce the sovereignty and territorial integrity of states in Europe and to achieve a lasting peace, and expresses its conviction that the politics of spheres of influence in Europe continues to pose a threat to the security of the continent.

According to the statement, the Estonian parliament proceeds from the goal set by NATO member states at the Bucharest Summit in 2008 that Ukraine will join the alliance, and takes into account the application for accession to NATO submitted by the government of Ukraine last year. Ukraine submitted the official application to join NATO on 30 September 2022.

The Estonian parliament building in Tallinn on 17 May 2023. Photo by Riigikogu’s Facebook page.

16 May 2023 – Report: Ukrainian war refugees have done well in Estonian labour market

Forty-four per cent of Ukrainian war refugees aged 20-64 who have been granted temporary protection by Estonia are in employment, compared with the EU average ratio of 30 per cent, a report by the Estonian social ministry shows. The ratio of war refugees in employment is increasing and their employment relationships are stable, which shows that they are coping well in the Estonian labour market, the ministry said, according to BNS.

The average profile of Ukrainian war refugees who have been arriving in Estonia from 2022 onward is different from the average profile of those who came here after 2014. While from 2014 to 2017, the refugees were mainly young men with a low level of educational attainment, the current Ukrainian war refugees include more women with a higher level of education, BNS reported.

The highest employment rate among war refugees who are beneficiaries of temporary protection is in the 35-39 age group. Almost half of all working Ukrainian refugees have found long-term jobs, with more than 200 days of employment on record. Also, the number of registered unemployed has decreased to one third of all Ukrainian refugees aged 20-64, and the trend is downwards.

Ukrainian refugees onboard a Tallink ferry in Tallinn. Photo by Andrea Forlani.

12 May 2023 – Live: Lennart Meri Conference in Tallinn

The Estonian capital hosts the 16th Lennart Meri Conference from 12 to 14 May – this year’s event features discussions on how the war in Ukraine has impacted the global balance of power; Estonian World will live stream the public discussions.

8 May 2023 – Jonatan Vseviov: Estonia invited Kalush Orchestra to “send a message” on Europe Day

While the 2023 Eurovision Song Contest gets underway in Liverpool, the UK, the reigning champions, Ukraine’s Kalush Orchestra, will be taking a detour to Tallinn before the live final for a free Europe Day concert at Freedom Square on 9 May. Adam Rang spoke to the person who issued their invitation, the secretary general of the Estonian foreign ministry, Jonatan Vseviov, to explore what 9 May means to Estonia and what message the country and Kalush Orchestra plan to send together.

Kalush Orchestra. Photo by the Estonian foreign ministry.

24 April 2023 – Estonian PM visits Bucha, gets overview of investigation into Russia’s crimes

The Estonian prime minister, Kaja Kallas, who is on a visit to Ukraine, visited the Bucha mass grave together with the Ukrainian interior minister, Ihor Klymenko, and received an overview of the investigation into Russian crimes, BNS reported. “This place is heartbreaking,” Kallas said. “The horrors of Bucha revealed to the whole world the nature of the Russian occupation, which Estonians and other countries in our region remember well from their own history. These atrocities are far from limited to Butcha.”

“The Russian leadership must be held accountable for the crime of aggression, genocide and crimes against humanity. Murders, rapes and deportations must be seen as tools of the Russian regime in its criminal policy against the Ukrainian people,” Kallas added. According to the prime minister, in addition to the fight for freedom, Ukraine must win the fight for justice.

Estonian prime minister Kaja Kallas meeting with the Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Ukraine on 24 April 2023. Photo by Jürgen Randma.

21 April 2023 – Estonia and Ukraine sign a defence cooperation agreement

The Estonian and Ukrainian defence ministers, Hanno Pevkur and Oleskii Reznikov, respectively, signed a defence cooperation agreement between their countries today at the US air base in Ramstein, Germany, where the meeting of the Ukraine Defence Contact Group took place.

The agreement sets out continuing cooperation and information exchange in the areas of defence policy and planning, intelligence and situational awareness, defence education and training between Estonia and Ukraine.

The Ramstein Ukraine Defence Contact Group is a US-led format that met for the first time a year ago, having met twelve times to date. The objective of the meetings is to get an overview of Ukraine’s needs and the aid that donors are sending. In addition to NATO and EU allies, over 50 participating states include Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, Australia, Morocco, Qatar, and Israel.

The Estonian and Ukrainian defence ministers, Hanno Pevkur (right) and Oleskii Reznikov (left), respectively, signed a defence cooperation agreement between their countries on 21 April 2023. Photo by the Estonian defence ministry.

20 April 2023 – Estonia to send Ukraine urgently needed ammunition

Estonia is to send Ukraine the artillery ammunition it so urgently needs, as part of the  European Union agreement to send Ukraine one million rounds of artillery ammunition, the Estonian government decided today. The newest aid package includes mainly 155mm ammunition. In addition, the country will donate night vision equipment and light weaponry ammunition to Ukraine.

An Estonian soldier with a 155mm ammunition. Photo by the Estonian defence ministry.

17 April 2023 – An exhibition on Ukrainian avant-garde art opens at Kumu

“Futuromarennia: Ukraine and Avant-Garde” at the Estonian modern art museum Kumu in Tallinn displays innovative artistic visions of the future that were born on the Ukrainian historical soil in the 1910s and 1920s.

The display includes more than 100 original artworks – paintings and drawings, designs for books and posters, theatre costumes and scenography – as well as historical photos and video materials. In addition, contemporary reconstructions in embroidery, a 3D model, documentary mappings of historical “places of strength” and two site-specific multimedia installations will help viewers grasp the phenomenon of the avant-garde in Ukraine not only in the historical, but also in the present context.

“Radical dreams of the future in painting, scenography, architecture, literature and cinema – artworks by Oleksandra Ekster, David Burliuk, Oleksandr Bohomazov, Vasyl Yermylov and many other remarkable authors – come from the collections of museums that continue their work amid ongoing attacks by the Russian aggressors,” Kumu said in a statement.

The exhibition was opened via a video greeting by Olena Zelenska, the Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky’s wife on 6 April and will remain open until 10 September 2023.

The exhibition was opened via a video greeting by Olena Zelenska.

3 April 2023 – A Ukrainian refugee organises a conference in Estonia to empower women

Khrystyna Didukh, a Ukrainian entrepreneur who was given safe haven in Estonia last year, organises a conference called Brave2Bloom in Tallinn from 3-4 April – to empower female entrepreneurs.

Khrystyna Didukh. Private collection.

3 April 2023 – The Estonian Refugee Council has helped 215,000 people in Ukraine

The Estonian Refugee Council has provided financial aid to approximately 215,000 people in Ukraine to date, BNS reported. The organisation has mediated some €39 million worth of support to Ukraine, equaling around €61 per household member per month. During the winter, the council supported around 5,000 vulnerable households in Ukraine and 250 in Georgia, distributing over €1.8 million in financial assistance.

3 April 2023 – 6,099 Ukrainian refugees registered as unemployed in Estonia

As of yesterday, 6,099 beneficiaries of international protection linked to Ukraine had registered as unemployed with the Estonian Unemployment Insurance Fund, accounting for 11.2% of all registered unemployed in Estonia, BNS reported. The status of unemployed has been terminated for 13,460 Ukrainian refugees in total, including for 9,930 due to entering employment.

A total of 58.4% of the war refugees registered as unemployed were looking for work in Harju County, 11.5% in Ida-Viru County and 9.6% in Tartu County. Of the registered unemployed beneficiaries of international protection, 77.4% are women and 22.6% men.

3 April 2023 – Estonia awards the Ukrainian ambassador the Cross of Merit

The Estonian foreign minister, Urmas Reinsalu, today presented the Ukrainian ambassador to Estonia, Mariana Betsa, with the Cross of Merit of the foreign ministry. “Mariana Betsa has been the ambassador to Estonia since 2018 and has worked tirelessly to advance relations between Estonia and Ukraine. You have been the spokesperson for your country’s creativity, beauty and resilience, and have represented Ukraine with dignity, as it fights for its survival in the war against the brutal aggressor Russia,” Reinsalu said.

The Ukrainian ambassador to Estonia, Mariana Betsa. Photo by the Estonian foreign ministry.

24 March 2023 – Europe to send Ukraine a million rounds over a year

Today in Brussels at the Foreign Affairs Council, the foreign and defence ministers of the European Union reached agreement on the joint procurement of one million 155 mm calibre rounds of ammunition for Ukraine. According to Estonian defence minister, Hanno Pevkur, the aim of the initiative from Estonia is to provide Ukraine urgently needed military aid as fast as possible and increase the European defence industry’s manufacturing capabilities.

“Above all, Ukraine needs ammunition right now and today we put the clear objective in writing – to send at least one million 155 mm calibre rounds of ammunition to Ukraine within the next 12 months,” Pevkur said.

155 mm artillery ammunition for NATO standard howitzers. Photo by Rheinmetall.

16 March 2023 – Estonia to send sniper weapons and special equipment to Ukraine

Estonia is planning to send another package of military assistance to Ukraine, this time consisting of, among other things, sniper weapons and special forces equipment. Estonia’s newest assistance package includes semi-automatic rifles, sniper rifles, sights, binoculars, ammunition, individual and special equipment, patrol boats and thermal cameras. In addition, medical equipment is being donated. The total value of the military aid is €494,300.

16 March 2023 – Ukrainian troops to receive a mobile sauna and a laundry unit made in Estonia

A mobile sauna and laundry unit built for the front line fighting units of Ukraine will start its journey to Ukraine from Tartu on Friday and is slated to be handed over near Kyiv on 20 March, BNS reported. The complex provides facilities for 50-60 troops to take a sauna and wash themselves, plus get 50 sets of uniforms laundered, in one day, spokespeople for the Estonian Defence League volunteer corps said.

The sauna complex will serve a battalion of Crimean Tatar volunteers fighting the invasion in Ukraine. At their request, the complex consists of two containers transported by a single vehicle. This allows for a faster response and more effective redeployment.

The sauna complex sent to Ukrainian soldiers consists of two containers transported by a single vehicle.

14 March 2022 – The first Estonian dies in Ukraine

On 7 March, Estonian Ivo Jurak was killed in Ukraine, the first Estonian to die in the war. Jurak had been fighting in the Ukrainian Foreign Legion since last autumn. He was killed near Bakhmut in Russian artillery fire.

Ivo Jurak. Photo by Kärt Liekis/Estonian Defence Forces.

9 March 2023 – Support for the intake of Ukrainian refugees has fallen in Estonia

According to a survey commissioned by the Estonian Government Office, support for the intake of Ukrainian refugees in Estonia has fallen to its lowest level in the last 12 months – 67% (76% of Estonians and 48% of other nationalities).

Allied military assistance for Ukraine is supported by 66% of the population (85% of Estonians, 27% of other nationalities), while 80% support the provision of humanitarian assistance (88% of Estonians, 64% of other nationalities).

People’s sense of security has also fallen – just 47% feel that Estonia can consider itself safe at present, with 46% of Estonians and 50% of other nationalities feeling this way.

9 March 2023 – Photo exhibition with stories of Ukrainian war refugees opens in Tallinn 

On Friday, 10 March, the photo exhibition “I choose life” will open on Tallinn’s Freedom Square, depicting Ukrainians who fled to Estonia from the war and their stories. The exhibition will be open until 25 March.

Natalia Fomina, a Ukrainian photographer who took part in the photo project, said that for her the project has been an inspiring experience. “I heard a lot of interesting stories and everyone has their own pains and experiences. People don’t stand still when they are in another country, they evolve, improve, learn the language, expand their field of activity, acquire new professions. I believe that Ukrainians inspire other nations with their courage and faith in a better future,” she said in a statement.

A Ukrainian refugee in Estonia. Photo by Natalia Fomina.
A Ukrainian refugee in Estonia. Photo by Yuliia Dvornivhenko.

24 February 2022 – Estonia’s central bank supports Ukraine from a coin sale

Eesti Pank, Estonia’s central bank, has transferred a further 140,550 euros to the Ukrainian central bank – a money that was received from sales of the coin card holding the two-euro coin dedicated to Ukraine. Since July 2022, a little over 35,000 of the coin cards have been sold and in total, the Bank of Estonia has sent over 495,000 euros to Ukraine.

The coin card has been bought in 53 different countries – mostly in Estonia, Germany, France, Latvia, Spain, Slovakia, Ukraine, Finland, the US and Italy. The specially dedicated coin was designed by a young Ukrainian refugee studying at the Estonian Academy of Arts, Daria Titova, and the coin card was designed by Vladimir Taiger.

Each coin card costs 18 euros and can be bought from the Omniva online store.

The two-euro coin card dedicated to Ukraine, issued by the central bank of Estonia. Photo by the Bank of Estonia.
Estonia's €2 coins with a special design dedicated to Ukraine and freedom. Screenshot from the website of the Bank of Estonia.
Estonia’s €2 coins with a special design dedicated to Ukraine and freedom. Photo by the Bank of Estonia.

23 February 2023 – Kallas: Estonia’s defense starts from Ukraine

Estonia’s defence “starts from Ukraine”, the country’s prime minister, Kaja Kallas, said in an interview with AFP on the eve of the anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. “We see clearly that our defense right now starts also from Ukraine because Ukraine is fighting with the same threat… So as long as they are fighting there, they are weakening the same enemy as we have,” she said, according to BNS.

Asked about Estonia’s security concerns, Kallas stressed the need to “totally discredit the tool of aggression”. “If this aggression pays off in Ukraine, then it serves as an invitation to use it elsewhere,” Kallas said. “Because if it is so that you… go attack another country, another sovereign country, and then you walk away with more territories, more land, more natural resources, then the signal to… all the aggressors, or would-be aggressors, in the world, is that this pays off, use it.”

Kaja Kallas in Brussels, 20 October 2022. Photo by the Stenbock House.

22 February 2022 – A shortage of teachers is limiting study opportunities for Ukrainian children

According to the report, “Ukrainian Children in the Estonian Education System”, published by the Foresight Centre, the Estonian schools and kindergartens are generally managing well the extra workload that came with the Ukrainian refugee students, but the shortage of teachers and support specialists is putting schools in a very unequal position when it comes to Ukrainian children.

In the opinion of the schools that have accepted Ukrainian children, the Ukrainian pupils have adapted well or fairly well.

“The largest number of Ukrainian refugee children have come to the municipalities where the number of pupils per teacher was already the highest, which is making the problem of teacher shortage and overburden more acute. The main challenges for teachers are the language barrier and teaching in bilingual classrooms, the big differences between the Estonian and Ukrainian curricula, and helping the Ukrainian students catch up with others,” Eneli Kindsiko, an expert of the Foresight Centre, a think tank at the Estonian parliament, said in a statement.

The workload of Estonian teachers is eased by Ukrainian education workers and war refugee volunteers, who are helping translate teaching materials and give lessons or act as support persons for children – 104 war refugees have taken up work in the schools of Estonia.

In mid-February, 8,463 Ukrainian children were studying in the educational institutions of Estonia. Nearly half, or 45.5% of Ukrainian children in Estonia go to school in Tallinn, followed by Tartu (9.9%) and Pärnu (4.5%).

63% of Ukrainian children are studying in Estonian. “However, it should be noted that even if the children are going to schools where Estonian is the language of instruction, they may still receive instruction in Russian or Ukrainian to some extent, and a large proportion of pupils are studying via the language immersion method,” Kindsiko said.

The experience perceived by teachers and heads of school so far has confirmed that the easiest way to integrate Ukrainian children into the education system is in pre-school education, that is, at a younger age. The more complex the content of a subject becomes, the more difficult it is to participate in the studies in the Estonian language without having a basic level of language skills. However, the majority of the children who have arrived from Ukraine are of a basic education age (65%), and 24% of all war refugee children that have arrived in Estonia are in pre-school education.

A Tallink ferry hosts over 1,500 Ukrainian refugees, approximately 40 per cent of them children; photo by Andrea Forlani.

21 February 2023 – Estonia joins 34 states in pledge to support a ban on Russia and Belarus in international sports events

The Estonian culture minister, Piret Hartman, has joined a joint statement by sports ministers and senior representatives of 34 states stressing that the full return of Russian and Belarusian athletes to international sports is in the hands of the said aggressor states and depends on them ending the war they have started, BNS reported.

The joint statement says the situation on the ground in Ukraine has only worsened since February 2022. The ministers said they firmly believed that, given there has been no change in the situation regarding the Russian aggression in Ukraine, and as an imperative for fairness and solidarity towards the Ukrainian athletes whose facilities have been destroyed and who have had to leave their country, or stay to fight for the defence of Ukraine in which very many have lost their lives, there is no practical reason to move away from the exclusion regime for Russian and Belarusian athletes.

“Through their choices, action and ongoing invasion, Russia broke the Olympic Truce that has been continuously supported by the United Nations General Assembly since 1993,” they said, according to BNS.

“Russia’s aggression and crimes continue in the heart of Europe in Ukraine. We have clearly expressed our position with like-minded countries already at the start of the war that Russian and Belarusian athletes have no place at the starting line together with our athletes. Estonia’s position has not changed in this regard. We must continuously do everything we can to prevent the athletes of aggressor states from returning to the Olympic Games,” Hartman said.

Tallinn Music Week’s founder Helen Sildna (left) with the Estonian culture minister Piret Hartman. Photo by Andrea Forlani.

17 February 2023 – Kallas: Lasting peace possible only when Russia has been pushed out

The Estonian prime minister, Kaja Kallas, said in meetings at the Munich Security Conference that lasting peace in Europe is only possible when Russia is finally pushed out, when Russia’s crimes have been punished and when grey areas in European security become a thing of the past. “Our unity over the past year has been unwavering. There is no sign that Russia will stop its war of conquest. Hardships will continue, and it is all the more important that we keep our united front.” 

According to her, the focus at the moment is to turn the situation on the battlefield in favour of Ukraine. Kallas said all allies must review their stockpiles and EU member states should find a quick way to jointly procure ammunition for Ukraine. “We want to jointly procure one million artillery shells for Ukraine. This could cost approximately €4 billion. It would contribute to Ukraine’s success on the battlefield and would also strengthen the European defence industry and increase its production capacity.”

From left, the Lithuanian president, Gitanas Nausėda, the French president, Emmanuel Macron, the Latvian president, Egils Levits, and the Estonian prime minister, Kaja Kallas. Photo by the Estonian government.
From left, the Lithuanian president, Gitanas Nausėda, the French president, Emmanuel Macron, the Latvian president, Egils Levits, and the Estonian prime minister, Kaja Kallas. Photo by the Estonian government.

17 February 2023 – Reinsalu: Ukraine’s future must be in NATO

The Estonian foreign minister, Urmas Reinsalu, said in meetings at the Munich Security Conference in Germany that Ukraine must be given a clear and straightforward roadmap to NATO at the summit of the alliance. He also said Ukraine needed weapons and ammunitions in particular now to protect the security of Ukraine and Europe, and for greater efficiency, the European Union could provide them via a joint procurement.

Reinsalu also talked about holding Russia accountable for the crimes committed in Ukraine. “A country that has committed and denied genocide cannot be allowed to repeat its crimes in the country where it has already committed them.”

15 February 2023 – Ninety-four MPs draft a statement in support of Ukrainians

Today, 94 members of the Estonian parliament submitted a draft statement to mark the passing of a year from the beginning of the full-scale military aggression by Russia in Ukraine and to show their respect for the heroic people of Ukraine who are waging a selfless fight.

According to the statement, the parliament condemns the Russian Federation’s ongoing military aggression and expresses deep sympathy to the Ukrainian people whose close ones have fallen in the battles with the powerful aggressor or suffered in the genocide committed against the peaceful population. 

“The bravery of the Ukrainian people obliges the countries respecting democratic values to unity and continued cooperation for the victory of Ukraine. The parliament calls on the international community to support Ukraine militarily, politically and economically more decisively than before in order to achieve this goal more quickly,” the draft statement says.

The president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, addressed the Estonian parliament on 13 April 2022. Photo by Jürgen Randma.

14 February 2023 – Reinsalu: Estonia’s foreign policy focuses on Ukraine’s victory and Russia’s defeat

The Estonian foreign minister, Urmas Reinsalu, said in a foreign policy speech at the country’s parliament that Estonia’s foreign policy focuses on Ukraine’s victory and Russia’s defeat. “We have provided large calibre and modern weapons. Providing weapons is central and Estonia has been very visible in this regard. Estonia’s military aid to Ukraine has reached 1% of Estonia’s GDP. As early as last November, I called on NATO allies to follow Estonia’s example and I will continue to do so. We must support Ukraine with heavy weaponry. This includes fighter aircraft,” Reinsalu said.

He also underlined that Russia’s political and military leadership that has launched a war of aggression against Ukraine must be brought to justice, including the Russian dictator, Vladimir Putin, himself. “We are supporting Ukraine’s efforts to establish a trans-regional international special tribunal. The first step is opening an office of a temporary prosecutor in The Hague, which would be in charge of collecting and preserving evidence of crimes of aggression,” he said.

9 February – Estonian drones join Ukraine’s “drone army”

The first nine drones provided by Estonian businesses and residents have joined Ukraine’s “army of drones”, a campaign that aims to procure thousands of drones to monitor the frontline in Ukraine and provide an effective response to Russian attacks; the next 10 drones are on their way to Ukraine.

Jaanika Merilo and Jaak Ennuste cofounded Herojam Slava, an Estonian NGO that organises the donation of drones to Ukraine. Photo by NGO Herojam Slava.

1 February 2023 – Estonia summons the Iranian ambassador over Ukraine

The Estonian foreign ministry today summoned the ambassador of Iran to express strong condemnation about Iran’s support to Russia in its aggression against Ukraine and the wide-spread human rights violations in Iran. “Estonia unequivocally condemns any support to Russia in its aggression against Ukraine, including Iran’s decision to supply Russia with combat drones. The use of combat drones has caused numerous civilian casualties and extensive damage to Ukraine’s infrastructure,” the Estonian foreign minister, Urmas Reinsalu, said.

“Estonia calls on the government of Iran to completely end all support for this unjustified and unprovoked aggression. Additionally, Estonia considers the repressive and violent methods of Iranian authorities in suppressing protests in the country unacceptable. The protection of human rights is the immutable responsibility of all governments of UN member states. We condemn the executions and the wave of violence against Iranian citizens and residents, which has led to hundreds of deaths.”

29 January 2023 – Reinsalu: Many more restrictions need to be applied to Russia

The Estonian foreign minister, Urmas Reinsalu, believes that in addition to Russian nuclear energy, restrictions should also be placed on Russian banks and the media, as well as the gold and metals business, BNS reports.

“Estonia has submitted in the past and will continue to demand the imposition of sanctions on Russian nuclear energy. We also talked about this goal with our Polish-Baltic colleagues this week. Furthermore, a complete ban on Russian banks in the SWIFT system, Russian propaganda channels, the business of the gold industry and metal industry is necessary,” Reinsalu said.

23 January 2023 – Russia expels the Estonian ambassador

The Estonian ambassador to Moscow, Margus Laidre has been told to leave Russia on 7 February, the Russian foreign ministry said on 23 January; Estonia said it will not back down on the principle of parity, which means the ambassador of Russia must also leave Estonia on the same date.

“In recent years, the Estonian leadership has been deliberately destroying relations with Russia. With its full russophobia and incitement of hatred against our country, Tallinn has risen to a new level in international politics,” the Russian ministry said in a statement.

The Estonian embassy in Moscow, Russia.

22 January 2023 – Around 100 HIV-positive Ukrainian refugees receive treatment in Estonia

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year, tens of thousands of refugees have wound up in Estonia, around 100 of whom are receiving treatment here for HIV, BNS reports. Most had already been receiving treatment in Ukraine and it was crucial that they not run out of pills.

“Once it’s begun, the person shouldn’t stop treatment even for a day,” Latsin Alijev, chairman of the board of the Estonian Network of People Living with HIV and support person, said. “Medication must be available, so that the person doesn’t develop resistance if they suddenly stop taking them.”

19 January 2023 – Estonia’s military support will increase to more than one per cent of GDP

The Estonian government will provide Ukraine with another military aid package, including remote fire and anti-tank weapons as well as ammunition worth a total of €113 million. Estonia’s military assistance to Ukraine will increase to 370 million euros, or slightly more than one per cent of Estonia’s gross domestic product.

“If Ukraine fell, freedom would also be in danger in other parts of the world. By helping Ukraine to defend its independence, we are defending the right to freedom and democracy of all countries, including Estonia,” the Estonian prime minister, Kaja Kallas, said in a statement, adding that Ukraine has asked for this help from Estonia directly.

Estonia is applying for funds from the European Peace Facility for the replacement of equipment.

The first Javelin anti-tank missiles, donated by Estonia, arrived in Ukraine on 18 February 2022. Photo by Estonian Defence Forces.

16 January 2023 – Foreign ministry: Ukraine’s victory is the security guarantee for all of Europe

Jonatan Vseviov, the secretary-general of the Estonian foreign ministry, was on a visit to Ukraine last week to discuss further cooperation to support Ukraine and continuing to raise the cost of the aggression for Russia. 

“Ukraine’s victory is the security guarantee of all of Europe: it determines the fate of not just Ukraine, but the future of Europe’s security architecture. Peace is ensured when Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity are restored, and aggression as a political tool has been completely discredited,” Vseviov said.

He reaffirmed at his meetings that Estonia would continue its efforts to ensure military, economic and political support for Ukraine. “We will also concentrate on Ukraine’s Euro-Atlantic integration and ensuring the legal accountability of Russia. We will not tire until the war has been won and those responsible for crimes have been brought to justice,” he said.

Jonatan Vseviov, the secretary-general of the Estonian foreign ministry, on a visit to Ukraine. Photo by the Estonian foreign ministry.
Jonatan Vseviov, the secretary-general of the Estonian foreign ministry, on a visit to Ukraine. Photo by the Estonian foreign ministry.

13 January 2023 – Ukrainian war refugees who arrive in Estonia can move to Finland

As Estonia is reaching its limit in receiving Ukrainian war refugees, after which it would struggle to offer all the necessary support services and assistance up to the required standards, Estonia and the Finnish government have decided to cooperate by offering some of the refugees the option to move on to Finland, BNS reported. In Finland, war refugees will be able to apply for temporary protection and are guaranteed the relevant support services.

The Estonian and Finnish ministries of the interior reached an agreement whereby Finland would receive up to 100 Ukrainian war refugees per week, if the refugees express their wish to do so.

An aerial view of Helsinki's South Harbour.  Photo by Henri Bergius, shared under the CC BY-SA 2.0 licence.
An aerial view of Helsinki’s South Harbour. Photo by Henri Bergius, shared under the CC BY-SA 2.0 licence.

12 January 2023 – Russia: Estonia must understand its hostile activity will not go unanswered

According to Maria Zakharova, a spokesperson for the Russian foreign ministry, Russia finds Estonia to be one of the most hostile countries towards Russia and the country must be prepared that every action has its consequences, BNS reported.

“It has long been no secret to us that Estonia is one of the most hostile states towards Russia. Russophobia has been elevated to the level of an official doctrine. At the same time, they seemingly want once again to please their overseas curators. Estonia must understand that none of their hostile actions will go unanswered,” Zakharova said.

Maria Zakharova, a representative of the Russian foreign ministry. Photo by mid.ru, shared under the Creative Commons 4.0 licence.

11 January 2023 – Estonia reduces the number of Russian embassy staff

Estonia notified the ambassador of the Russian Federation of a decision according to which Russia must reduce the number of its staff by 1 February to eight diplomatic positions and 15 posted administrative, technical and service staff members, BNS reported. The aim of the decision is to reach parity in embassy staff, which means that the number of positions in the Russian and Estonian representations operating in capitals will be made equal.

“Estonia considers the principle of parity very important in our relations with Russia. In light of the fact that during the war of aggression, the staff of the Russian embassy is not engaged in advancing Estonian-Russian relations, it is our view that there are no grounds for the current size of the Russian embassy,” the Estonian foreign minister, Urmas Reinsalu, said.

Women protest in front of the Russian embassy in Tallinn on 13 April 2022.

10 January 2023 – Estonian president to Zelensky: Your war is also our war

In a phone call with the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, the Estonian head of state, Alar Karis, reaffirmed Estonia’s continued comprehensive support to Ukraine to help the latter win the war, BNS reported. He promised that Estonia will raise awareness among its allies and partners about the importance of supplying the defending Ukrainian army with new weapons systems.

“Estonia will do everything it can to help Ukraine win the war. We will definitely continue to provide military aid to the greatest extent possible and the next military aid package is being approved by the government,” Karis said. “Strong international support must continue until Ukraine has liberated its territory. We must understand that Russia’s war of aggression doesn’t just jeopardise Ukraine, it jeopardises all of Europe. Your war is also our war.”

The Estonian president Alar Karis on a phone call with the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky. Photo by the Estonian President’s Office.

10 January 2023 – Tallinn sends two ambulances, medical equipment to Lviv

The city of Tallinn sent the Ukrainian city of Lviv an aid consignment consisting of two Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 319 ambulances with equipment belonging to Tallinn Ambulance, as well as medical equipment from the East Tallinn Central Hospital.

In addition to the two ambulances, Tallinn Ambulance also sent medical equipment to Lviv, such as aspirators, defibrillators, ECG machines and perfusers (devices for dosing and administering medicine) and scoop stretchers. The East Tallinn Central Hospital also donated defibrillators and other equipment in a total amount of 18 units, 12,000 FFP2 masks and pharmacy supplies, such as syringes, cannulas, infusion systems, wound plasters and dressings, antiseptics and so on.

Tallinn sending two ambulance vans to Ukraine. Photo by Aleksandr Guzhov.

9 January 2023 – The Integration Foundation to help war refugees stay connected with their culture

The Estonian Integration Foundation today opened an application round to support the organisation of Ukrainian language cultural events for young war refugees in cooperation with Ukrainian cultural societies, Estonian NGOs and cultural institutions, as well as the teaching of Ukrainian language and culture and the publication of children’s and youth literature in Ukrainian. The budget of the application round is €100,000 and up to €15,000 can be applied for in one application. More information is available on the Integration Foundation website.

8 January 2023 – A photo exhibition of Ukrainian war refugees to open

On 10 March, photo exhibition “I Choose Life”, depicting Ukrainians who fled to Estonia from the war and their stories, will open on Tallinn’s Freedom Square. It is a social and cultural project created by Ukrainian war refugee photographers. In addition to portraits of the refugees, the exhibition also tells their story: who they are, what their life was like in Ukraine, where they lived and who they worked for. It also answers questions about how they have adapted in Estonia, where they live and work now, and where and who they see themselves in five years’ time. 

Photo by Daria Prasko.
Photo by Daria Prasko.

4 January 2023 – Tallinn hands over 14 buses to Ukraine’s Zhytomyr region

Mihhail Kõlvart and Tanel Kiik, the mayor and deputy mayor of Tallinn, respectively, visited Ukraine today and handed over 14 diesel buses to the city of Zhytomyr – a city in the north of the western half of Ukraine and the administrative centre of Zhytomyr province. Tallinn’s city government also sent generators and other humanitarian aid.

In addition, Kõlvart and Kiik got acquainted with the Zhytomyr Invulnerability Point – a point of refuge, where residents can gather during power and heating cuts. The centre provides heating, light, cooking facilities, phone charging and, if necessary, overnight accommodation. The mayor of Tallinn said in a statement that “we can also learn from Zhytomyr in preparing for crises, such as the creation of service centres for residents and the organisation of local government work in times of crisis”.

The city of Tallinn donated buses to the city of Zhytomyr in Ukraine. Photo by the Tallinn city government.

For updates from 2022, please see a separate article.

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